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Mozart – The Magic Flute


Conductor – Jane Glover

Director – Simon Callow

Designer – Tom Phillips


Tamino – Andrew Staples

Pamina – Queen of the Night

Papageno – Roland Wood

Queen of the Night – Penelope Randall-Davis

Monostatos – Mark Le Brocq

Sarastro – Tim Murfin

Speaker – Stephen Gadd

Papagena – Pippa Goss

Three Ladies – Natasha Jouhl, Carolyn Dobbin, Alexandra Sherman

Three Boys – Freddie Benedict, Ben Richardson, Alex Dugan


Opera Holland Park 8 July 2008


The first performance of this opera took place in September 1791; before the end of the year Mozart was dead.  Did he have some premonition of his end?  Any staging of this opera raises the question – containing as it does solemn music and dark moments, although cheerfulness keeps breaking in.


Both aspects of the work were presented in last night’s rendering under the genial baton of Jane Glover.  It was the sort of evening when the musicians seemed to be playing for their own enjoyment rather than for an audience. 


Chief of the pleasures on hand was the utterly beguiling portrayal of Pamina by Fflur Wyn; vocally and physically irresistible.  Also prominent was the Sarastro of Tim Murfin – what a great treat to hear a true bass voice!  Andrew Staples sang a sturdy Tamino – his tone had the requisite edge when required.


Queen of the Night was dramatically apt in the person of Penelope Randall-Davis Roland Wood’s blokish Papageno was matched by Pippa Goss as his sweetheart – her transformation from old hag to teenage sexpot was a stunning moment.


Not to be overlooked are the three Ladies and three Boys who occupied the stage as if they owned it.


The production, directed by Simon Callow, wisely ignored the issue of freemasonry – irrelevant in the present age when no-one has time for rituals and, in the religious sense, no-one believes anything much anyway.


Wild life was conspicuous by its absence; the first scene had no snake, Tamino being ambushed by half a dozen Kung Fu thugs.  Later when he played his flute no animals appeared, only male dancers.


Magic effects were in short supply except for thunderclaps which, fortunately, were that evening not echoed by the elements.  One negative factor was the rather drab outfits on display; black 50’s chic for the three Ladies and Queen, but nondescript costumes for the men.  The finale revealed unflattering “Japonaiserie” for both tenor and soprano (are they really Japanese?)


This opera is an infuriating concoction of the sublime and the absurd; something like the character of the composer, I would guess.  Nevertheless, it invariably exerts a potent charm which does not rely on magic tricks, only on the genius of its creator.


Stuart Jenkins